Here I Stand Primer: The Ottomans

October 5, 2009

[Note: We’re playing Here I Stand again this weekend with a few new players. Joe requested that I sketch out some possible strategies for each side. As our least experienced player is going to be the Ottomans, I’ll start here and fill in the rest over the coming months.]

When we have new players at the table, it’s customary to offer them the Ottomans or French. While both offer plenty of fun opportunities, they are “rules light” powers because the religious game does not directly affect them. Of the two, however, the Ottomans are more straightforward–perfect for someone who is learning the rules. What follows is some advice for those new Ottoman players who are sitting down to play the 1532/Tournament scenario. (Feel free to refer to this map as you read.)


You begin play with the second highest victory point (VP) count, 16 to the Hapsburgs’ 18. As the game opens, your land forces are clustered around Istanbul and Buda. However, you are also in control of a powerful but scattered navy. Your time will be split between engaging in piracy, fleet actions, and taking keys.

Three Basic Openings

By spring deploying  troops to Buda, some Ottoman players opt for a swift and decisive victory at Vienna. This will most likely force the Hapsburg player to meet you in the field at Pressburg and/or spend his home card building up a defensive force. However, to ensure victory, you will probably spend your home card to get some extra dice in that field battle. If you win, you have hamstrung the Hapsburg player in the east, allowing you to make a later assault on Prague. If you lose, you have spent a lot of command points (CP) for little/no gain. I consider this your riskiest opening move. There are a lot of possibilities if you win, but if you lose you end up spinning your wheels a bit. This is the “Vienna option.”

Another choice is the “Tunis option.” Spring deploying a token force to Buda will most likely scare off the Hapsburgs. Consider burning a 5 CP card to put fleets into the Aegean Sea and North African Coast on the first impulse (2 CP). Then naval transport a decent-sized army to Tunis, an independent key (3 CP). Taking this key will net you a nice 2 VP without ticking off the Hapsburgs directly. Then you  can build up a fleet of pirates and raid the Hapsburgs, French, or Papacy.

A third choice is the “Venice option.” Through careful wheeling and dealing, go to peace with the Hapsburgs and declare war on Venice (a minor power). You’ll need a powerful navy to blockade Venice, but snatching up that key and threatening Italy might be worth it! Keep in mind that declaring war on Venice will allow the Papacy to intervene (2 CP), thus putting you in the Pope’s bad graces (but who cares, right?).

Negotiation Considerations

Never hesitate to speak with the Protestants and English. They don’t directly threaten you in any way, so you can usually work out some deals. The Protestants are “card hunting” for key Reformation events; if you have these, you may be able to get a random card draw from them or a promise to play “Foul Weather” or “Gout” on your behalf. It’s usually good to talk to the French too; if both of you decide to go after the Hapsburgs at the same time, you can make great gains and keep the Holy Roman juggernaut off balance.

I would also argue that there is a time when making peace with the Hapsburgs is a good idea! This agreement will allow both of you some breathing room to pursue other interests elsewhere (for you, Tunis or Venice…for him, electorates, Calais, Metz, etc.).

Keep Your Eyes Open For…

Because Here I Stand is a card-driven wargame, you obviously can’t prepare for most situations that will come up. However, you can stay on the lookout for opportunities. Tunis, Venice, Vienna are your three key considerations. If you ever see that you’ve got a good shot at taking one, go for it! Later in the scenario, the Hapsburgs may need to draw forces out of Italy to deal with threats elsewhere. If this is the case, feel free to nab Naples. If you can build up a strong pirate fleet, go a’raiding and just pick at whomever you feel needs to be brought down a notch or two. You may even be able to get something in exchange for going after a particular power (“Hey Martin Luther…what would you offer me if I agreed to raiding the Papacy?”).

Final Thoughts

Through careful use of pirates you can leech resources from your enemies. You will be tempted to use your home card in all sorts of situations; gauge carefully where it will do the most damage and let your janissaries do their worst. In short, playing the Ottomans gives you the perfect opportunity to play the “Boogeyman” of Europe during this period; enjoy it!

WBC, Day 5 continued: John’s Perspective

August 7, 2009

Well, it is 11:00 and I am sitting on the bed in our hotel room, chomping on a few Wheat Thins and looking back over the day. It was great fun! After Here I Stand, I bought the guys from my semifinals game a round of beer (oh, I will miss Yuengling back in MN), and then some of us settled in for a quick demo/pickup game of Conquest of Paradise. The designer, Kevin McPartland, came over and introduced us all to it, which was gracious of him. He has an immense enthusiasm for what the Polynesian people have done throughout history. This is a two to four-player game. It’s published by GMT, which is odd; it feels like a civilization-building type game, which is very out of character for them. After one play, I am impressed by the marriage of theme and mechanics, though the game feels a bit too short to me. Just as you are done exploring and are busy building up an army, it ends!

After we wrapped up, I got in a three-player game of Small World with Ted from the Here I Stand semi-finals and Tim, a random guy we met in the open gaming room. This was followed by another game with Russ and Noah. And this is when I snapped my eleven game losing streak! I don’t care if Russ had never played the game before and if Noah was ten years old. It doesn’t matter. I won.

I also managed to get in a demo of Dominion: Intrigue, a nifty little card game that feels collectible, but isn’t. It’s a fun brain-puzzler sort of game. You have to purchase cards and build a deck to amass victory points.

Later in the afternoon, Russ and I headed over to a conference room for a one-hour look at Virgin Queen, the “sequel” to Here I Stand. I’ll have a whole post on this in the near future, but suffice to say that it looks like it’s coming along nicely and will (once again) set a new standard for what can be done with card-driven games.

In the evening, we met up with Dennis from the Here I Stand tournament and Battlestar Galactica demo and created a team for the Wits & Wagers game show. I’d guess about 60+ people showed up, and there was a lot of good-natured heckling. I appreciated the chance to blow off a little steam and learn insane bits of trivia like…how many US states allow marriage between first cousins. (That’s sixteen, by the way. Land of the free and home of the…shrinking gene pool?) That got out around 9:30 PM, so we headed to open gaming for one! last! game! It ended up being…Small World. It’s a fun, light little game that doesn’t take a lot of brainpower. And after 12 hours of gaming, you’re no good for anything else.

Today went so well that we decided to essentially end on a high note. We’re sleeping in tomorrow, and will be taking one last lap around the vendors’ hall before heading out. More reflections on the WBC as a whole later on.

WBC, Day 5: John’s Perspective, Part 1

August 7, 2009

This morning I awoke at 7:30 AM, got ready for the day, and headed off to the Kinderhook room to duke it out in the Here I Stand semi-finals. I came in as an alternate and was placed at a table with Dave (our third game together!), and three people I didn’t know: Jeff (assistant GM), Paul, Ted, and Manuel. I had second to last pick, and, as I knew that I wouldn’t be able to advance to the finals because of travel days back to MN, I took the English. My intention was to sit back and watch sparks fly, and fly they did!

The game was over in 90 minutes.

For people who know Here I Stand, this is pretty darn rare. On the opening turn, I pulled an okay anti-Ottoman hand. I tried to convince the Hapsburgs to give me something for it, but he (Dave) wasn’t interested. So I chatted it up with the Ottoman, and he granted me a card pull in exchange for an agreement not to play the anti-Ottoman cards (I wouldn’t have anyway, but hey…). The Pope and I agreed to one card pull from me to him and one play of Erasmus for the event in exchange for the divorce (essentially two cards). Then I gave the French two mercs in exchange for an agreement not to intercede in Scotland. I allied with the Protestants (in case Henry ditched three wives this turn and we both got a card draw for that third wife) and that was that.

Then things went a little south for me. The card the Pope pulled from my hand was a 4 CP card, and I only drew a 2 CP card from the Ottoman. Then I whiffed the “get an heir” roll. This now meant that I’d have to spend my home card on divorcing and remarrying, and another card on declaring war on Scotland. Long story short, I got one shot at Edinburgh at bad odds, didn’t make it, and came in at 14 VP (Edward was eventually born). This put me one behind the French by game’s end, on that same turn.

Who won, and how? The Ottoman did a bit of thrashing around and never took any keys. The French allied with the Hapsburgs, and the Protestant had a screwy hand: Michael Servetus and Copernicus (+3 VP) but very few CP. Dave took Tunis and Metz, nabbed an electorate, and then…in the New World phase, aced an explorer and a conquest roll and came away with 23 VP, the Pope behind him at 22. An interesting game, to be sure.

I face an odd choice for the rest of our time here: I can throw my lot in with Crusader Rex tomorrow morning (a small tourney, probably a lot of extremely good players) or go play 1960: Making of the President. The problem with the latter choice is that I’ve only played it twice, have never read the rules, and it’s rated as an “A” tourney–experienced players only.

This afternoon will be filled with walking around the vendors’ room, which just opened today, playing some games in the open area, attending Ed Beach’s preview of Virgin Queen, and playing the Wits & Wagers game show.

I should be able to post later today, so stay tuned…

WBC, Day 4 continued: John’s Perspective

August 7, 2009

I’m going to keep this short, as Russ and I need to book it on over to breakfast and the convention pretty quick. Yesterday was a lot of fun. I sat in on a 9AM demo of Circus Maximus, an old Avalon Hill game about chariot racing in ancient Rome. It looks like a cool game, but what I was most impressed with was the demonstration teacher, Jake. Every year he paints up several pewter figurines and makes a huge deluxe map for the game. He then has it sold at the auction. The figures are really beautiful, and the set this year went for $310!

At 11AM I sat down for the final heat of Power Grid. I hadn’t got in on the first two; this was just to get some more experience. I played with Keith (already linked to his game group), Bobby, Jake from the demo, and Helen. We played on the Italy map, which I had never seen before. Although the game went long (3.5 hours), I had a good time and finished third out of five. Thanks to everyone for the game.

In the afternoon, Russ and I headed into the open gaming room. I was hoping for someone to show me how to play my copy of Carcassonne, but what we got instead might have been better. We ran into a group of guys who were slowly suffering their way through a game of Here I Stand–they had played (years ago, I think) once, but were running through the tutorial. So we sat with them for 90 minutes and did a little coaching. This was very fun and rewarding, and we are always happy to do a little game evangelization. Thanks to Chris, Len, Ken, and Sean for letting us sit over their shoulders for a while. We also met Phil, a reader of our blog!

After dinner, we headed back into the Kinderhook room for another round of Here I Stand. My group (Dave, who won last heat I was in, Erie (sp?), Rick, Ed, and Darren) was the last one there, duking it out in turn six. At one point, I had, as the Protestants, amassed the 23 VP needed for victory, but a rule I misunderstood meant I had to fight field battle instead of fight off city assaults in two electorates. All of England became Protestant, though, and it came down to Hapsburg, English, and French die rolls to see who would win the game on an explorer/conquest roll. The game went to Darren, playing the French, who has once again proved that you can win this game without ever going to war without any other player. I learned a lot about the religious game from Dave, and thanks to everybody; I had a great time.

Now we’re headed back over to the Host; Russ to Twilight Struggle and me to the Here I Stand semi-finals. I qualified on victory points, so wish me luck!

WBC, Day 4: Russ’s Perspective

August 7, 2009

Last night went late. Round two of the Here I Stand heats started at 7 PM and I didn’t get out until 12 AM. I finally got in a “good” game playing as the Hapsburgs, but was betrayed by the dice. Every battle I fought I had more or equal dice, but lost every one. My new world rolls were never more than a 3, just killing me. The Protestants ended up winning with the Papacy a close second. The head-scratching move in the game for me was the French player playing Michelangelo on the Papacy’s behalf for a card draw. Michelangelo is a 4 CP card that almost guarantee’s the Papacy 1 VP and the average draw would be a 2.5 CP card.

Earlier in the day, I met up with Stephanie (from the previous Sherwood Forest game) and another guy for some open gaming. We started with Vikings, which I wasn’t too impressed with. and then played a dice game called To Court the King. It was far better than most dice games; player buy cards with the dice rolls that can then modify later die rolls. It was an interesting mechanic and it made the game enjoyable.

Finally, I snuck in a Circus Maximus demo (interesting, but out of print and seems to take too long) and checked out Eisenbach Gap (I’ll have to check into this one more).

One last note, a reader of this blog named Phil, was able to recognize me in open gaming and chatted with John and me. He seemed like a great guy (like most of the people I’ve met here at the WBC) and it was fun and a little weird being recognized for our efforts on MoV. So, hi Phil!

WBC, Day 4: John’s Perspective, Part 1

August 6, 2009

I lost my game of Here I Stand tonight, but am still advancing to the semi-finals based on victory point totals. Now for sleep. 6.5 hours and then…into the shark tank.

WBC, Day 2: Russ’s Perspective

August 5, 2009

As I’m writing my day two reactions this morning, I’m coming to the realization that the hotel orange juice tastes surprisingly like Tang. Somehow, that’s an improvement over most hotel orange juice. Yesterday was also full of surprises.

I started the day, sitting down at a table with a father and two sons who gladly taught me a new game, Dominion: Intrigue. This is a card game that uses a deck building and card playing mechanic similar to a collectible card game. The game played quickly and was immensely fun. It’s now on my short list of games to buy.

After that, I sat in at a Lost Cities: The Board Game table. Joining me were a mom and her two daughters. I started to wonder if was going to have a theme for the rest of the day. Lost Cities is a fun little Euro style game where players try to advance down five different tracks by playing incremental card plays. Victory points are awarded based on how far you advance and the events you triggered along the way. Honestly, I think the experience was better by playing with kids (and not because it was the only game I won all day). Lost Cities isn’t the kind of game that would keep me occupied through multiple plays, but it was fun to see kids figure out the strategies and get excited by earning points. Ultimately, I would play the game again, but I won’t be buying it.

After lunch, I hopped into a Ra: The Dice Game demo. Despite one of the guys at the table really liking it, to me it just felt like an Egyptian themed variation of Yahtzee with a set scoring pattern.

Later, I joined a game of Steam. Steam is about trying to make a profit through shipping goods over the railroads you build. After asking a few questions and glancing over the rules, I had the game down pretty well. Perhaps the most interesting part of the game is that you start with no money and immediately go into debt by borrowing it. From then on, players must balance track building, train upgrades, shipping for profit, and role bidding while trying to make more money than the other players. It is a game I’d consider buying, except I don’t think I’d get it to the table much to actually play.

Finally, John and I learned Britannia from Ewan, a great fellow whom we first learned about by his comments on this blog. The interesting thing about Britannia is that the game and many of the strategies are scripted. Players are rewarded for following scoring summary on their cards that end up following history. Of course, you can’t follow history exactly or the winner would always be predetermined. I look forward to playing all the way through it when we get home.

The final game of the day was also my only tournament game, Here I Stand. I expected tournament play to be difficult, but not in the way I experienced it. Four out of the six players at the table were beginners. As a result, they didn’t appreciate the long term consequences of their actions and I had my worst ever HIS game. Playing the Ottomans, I ended the game with a net one victory point increase. I’m sure there’s a post in me about just what lead to this disaster of a game for me, but the short of it is HIS should not be marked as a beginner’s welcome game. There were two many take backs and goofy happenings going on at my table to make me feel like I was playing in a tournament. My sampler game of Steam was more cut throat!

WBC, Day 2 continued: John’s Perspective

August 4, 2009

This is going to be a short post, because I am tired. We finished our Here I Stand game not too long ago. I lost as the French, but came in second (22 VP) behind the Protestants (24 VP). With much wheeling and dealing, I got four card draws from various players and took Metz and Milan. Genoa ended up as a failure, and my explorations didn’t do too hot. Despite this, this was  hands down the best I’ve ever played personally, and I am very happy with the way it ended up. Thanks to Phil, Dave, Nathan, Brad, and Dave for the great game, and congrats to second Dave for the excellent Protestant victory in turn five (and his “winner buys beer” motto). Very much looking forward to the next game on Thursday evening. My 22 VP should get me in a decent position to qualify for the semifinals. Okay–time to get to bed. My forays into multiplayer gaming are done for a bit. Tomorrow is Wilderness War and Hammer of the Scots.

Here I Stand Session Report–Papacy Perspective

July 17, 2009

I’m not sure which side is the most difficult to play in Here I Stand, but I have to believe the papacy ranks up there pretty high. In our most recent HIS game, in which John has already posted the English perspective, I played the Papacy.

Going into the game, I knew it was going to be tough. I was sitting at a table full of crafty player. My brother, Rick, controlled the Ottomans. Rick is one of those crafty players that always seems to twist things into his advantage. Mike, John’s brother, played the Hapsburgs. Mike is turning into a pretty good player.  He’s come close to winning a few times and I think it has bolstered his confidence and made his play more aggressive and  sound. John, my boardgaming nemesis and good friend, played the English. My greatest fear was his ability to manipulate others at the table for his gain. Combined with sound strategy, he makes for a tough opponent. Joe, the new comer to the table played the French. Despite being new to the game, I knew not to underestimate Joe. He’s a good strategic thinker and is able to quickly execute on opportunities given to him. The final player was Will, playing the Protestants. Until this point, I hadn’t played against Will in a strategic game. He was a bit of a wild card, but I was confident I could outmaneuver him.

In round one of the tournament scenario, my hand was relatively poor. It contained a number of combat and response cards of low value. With such few CP, I decided to go the diplomatic route and get others to act on my behalf, rather than mulligan and try to draw a better hand and go it alone. The gambit paid off fairly well. I offered a card draw to the Hapsburgs in return of a promise to capture one electorate and one card for the French to pass through Geneva on their way to Milan so I could use the bonus die of a Catholic stack to counter Calvin’s presence on a book burning roll.

The card pulls only cost me 3 CP and put me in the good graces of the French and Hapsburgs, a relationship that would serve me well in both turns 1 and 2. If I made a mistake in the negotiations, it was probably not to grant the English a divorce for 2 cards. It would have probably given me 4-5 CP and made the English a bigger target for the other players to go after.

The turn 1 play saw the Hapsburgs and Ottomans stalemate in Hungary and the French make a slow trek to Milan. The Protestants made an aggressive push to change France to Protestantism, going so far as to translate the French bible. But with all the French and Hapsburg troops along the boarder, I was able to us my few cards to stem, but not stop, the tide. In a final gambit to stop France from falling to heresy, I called a debate and was able to burn a 1 value French language Protestant debater.

I finished turn 1 with some more improvements to St. Peter’s, allowing the Papacy to sit in third place, behind the Ottomans and Hapsburgs, but closely—too closely—followed by the rest of the players.

Turn 2 saw me with a high value hand. I knew now was my time to make a move. In negotiations, I went hunting for Society of Jesus, but found no one had it in possession. I also found that nearly everyone wanted me to continue my generosity and allow them a card pull. I rebuffed the offers and instead renegotiated the deals.

I promised a card play on behalf of the Ottomans for them declaring war on Venice, so I could ally with them. My card would allow the Ottomans to pull a card from the Hapsburgs’ hand and they would leave Venice to me so I could gain a VP and increase my hand size by one card for turn 3. With the Hapsburgs, I loaned a fleet and a mercenary, so they could further defend against Ottoman attacks or piracy in exchange for him playing a card that would allow a number of burn book attempts in France. The deal was definitely in my favor, but thanks to our friendly relationship from last turn, it was a fairly easy sell. In fact, thanks to my generosity on turn 1, it seemed like everyone I spoke to was willing to work with me. The final negotiation was with France. France spilled the beans on the English-French deal to team up and destroy the Hapsburgs. I counseled France to hold on to Machiavelli, watch how the English-Hapsburg fight goes and only jump in when the French could secure  VPs. My concern was the English seeking to weaken both the French and the Hapsburgs and take VP without spending many CPs or losing many troops. This along with the threat of the English gaining VP through the change to Protestantism could lead to a quick English win. The French agreed with my assessment and changed their play appropriately.

When it came time to play cards, I went after VP. I pushed forward by allying with Venice and getting a key. I then was able to use Michelangelo to increase St. Peter’s by 10 points, securing more VP! The rest of the game was spent securing Europe from Protestantism. I burned books, removing Protestant influence from the French and Italian language zones. With my final rolls, I pushed into England and Germany with a little luck.

However, the game was too close. I hadn’t gained enough VP and with a few cities falling to Protestantism, I’d lose the VP I fought so hard for. The Hapsburgs and the Ottomans found to a stalemate while the English and the Hapsburgs suffered heavy casualties in Antwerp. After seeing the Hapsburgs use all their good cards and fearing what would happen if I gave the Ottomans another card, I stabbed the Ottomans in the back and didn’t play the card I promised on their behalf. Fortunately, we had already decided this was to be the last turn, so it was a betrayal without consequence. Not exactly my finest gaming moment, but I needed to keep my buffer on the Catholic/Protestant track and could dare give the Ottomans a chance for a win.

The French heeded my advice and instead decided to declare war on Genoa. However, I wasn’t out of the woods yet. The final Protestant and English cards would make or break me. To Will’s credit, he avoided the easy conversion site, England, to go for an undisputed win, as changing England would result in English VP and an English win. He once again went after France and found success, but not enough to change the VP points.

The English then went for the win with their final card play. They tried to convert England. This would be doubly bad for me. Not only would it take me out of the lead, but it would push the English above me and tie me with the Ottomans, Hapsburgs, and Protestants on the VP track. But luck was with me. A couple good rolls kept the English Catholic and the dreaded VP change from happening.

However, the dark horse French took the prize when they captured Genoa and had successful rolls in the New World phase.

Final order of powers: France, Papacy, English, Hapsburgs, Ottomans, Protestants.

Getting to second place took all my effort and the cooperation of the other players. I’ve learned as the Papacy that you need friends to survive and thrive.

Furthermore, debating is very difficult and as the Papacy, you must use everything, including your home card, to stack the dice in your favor. While removing a 1 value debater from the game doesn’t really hurt the Protestants, but the VP you gain can never be removed.

And while it is easy to forget out St. Peter’s, don’t. 5 CP for 1 VP is a given ratio for the Papacy. When deciding to build or burn books, make sure you take the CP to VP ratio into account. I wish I could go back and reexamine my final card plays. It may have been better to burn books one less time and instead get a VP from St. Peter’s.

Here I Stand Session Report–English Perspective

July 15, 2009

I purchased Here I Stand roughly 14 months ago and have played it ten times since: eight times in person and twice online (6 and 4 personal record). It is a six-player card-driven wargame about the Wars of the Reformation. If you’re interested in purchasing it, you might be swayed by the fact that it has received excellent support from the designer and has a rather large and enthusiastic fan base. This past Sunday I sat down at the table with five other guys ranging from 25-30, one brand new to the game, and we saw who could have “the biggest hat in Europe.” We started the tournament scenario around 10:45 AM, broke for lunch at 1:30, and finished by 5:00 PM. The agreement was that we’d go two turns, with the auto-victory being 23, not 25 VP.

This session report is from my point of view as the English. My first hand was pretty mediocre: no exciting events, no combat cards, and nothing to help my friend Martin Luther out. I met with the Protestants and got a card draw out of him; I was hoping to use it as leverage to get the Pope (Russ) to grant a divorce, but that didn’t work out. I even offered him two cards in exchange for a divorce (probably a mistake), but he wouldn’t take it. Darn! I met with the French last, played by Joe, our new guy. I gave him a card pull and we agreed to a sort of convoluted deal I first saw in round 2 of the 2009 play by email tourney.

One new war was declared in the first turn–I went after Scotland. France chose to intercede for free, pulling the Scottish into an alliance (as per our agreement!).  The action phase saw a rush of movements on all fronts. The Ottomans immediately clashed with the Hapsburgs (Mike) in Hungary, but not a lot of territory exchanged hands. Then the Ottomans went for a very successful piracy strategy, hitting the Hapsburgs several times and receiving VPs and cards. The Protestants played a very common combination of military moves to snatch up electorates and convert French spaces to their faith. In response, the Pope called debates and flipped most of the French spaces back. He also burned a debator late in the turn. The French took Milan late in the turn, while the Hapsburgs snatched up Metz.

After declaring war, I marshaled my forces and went after Scotland, but not before the French had moved those infantry units out of Edinburgh for me. I took Edinburgh easily and left the three Scottish units in Glasgow. They eventually winter-moved to Paris and effectively became the Scots in exile. The sum effect of the deal was this: I got a key (2 VP) at very little cost, the French got a card pull and three Scottish infantry units on the Continent. I ended up burning the Scottish ship in port, but in the future, I think I’d offer that up too (we sort of forgot about it!). This has become my standard opening move for the English; any feedback on it would be most appreciated.

(Update: I cut this deal a third time in another PBEM game. After going through with it, this was met by howls of protest from my opponents. Someone emailed the designer asking about the legality of the deal, considering it is very “gamey”. No official word yet on whether this will be outlawed in future. From my point of view, this is one of the only moves that gives the English a prayer of winning in competitive play. One player dubbed this “The Caledonian Gambit.”)

That done, I was content to use my home card to marry Anne Boleyn; a lucky six on the pregnancy chart yielded a healthy Edward and five VPs! Things were looking good at this point. To end my turn, I built up infantry units in London and a fleet in Calais. By the turn’s end, the Ottomans were threatening an early victory, with the Papacy and the Hapsburgs close behind.

After a lunch break, we returned to the table and drew cards. The Hapsburgs got extremely unlucky with their colony rolls and didn’t get any extra cards. The French picked up one through Potosi Silver Mines. I was fortunate to be dealt a strong hand with many CPs: three “five” cards! Combined with “Dissolution of the Monasteries,” it looked to be a fun turn.

Diplomacy was even more involved this time; Martin Luther and I couldn’t really come to a deal, although I did have “Calvin’s Institutes.” He was feeling pretty confident after snatching “Printing Press” from the discard pile the previous turn. I allied with the French with the understanding that we would declare war on the Hapsburgs and make a mad dash for the finish line before the Ottomans got there. The French had “Machiavelli’s ‘The Prince,'” so this turn was going to be a surprise for Charles V!

However, things didn’t go exactly as planned. I spring deployed to Calais and used my home card on the Hapsburgs right away, and then made a hard drive for Antwerp. This was foiled by a nice intercept roll and two combat cards, “Field Artillery” and “Tercios.” In a massive field battle, I lost four of eight units while he only lost two of seven. While I retreated to lick my wounds, the French delayed jumping in on the war and sent out an explorer. Not good! And the Ottomans and Hapsburgs clashed at Pressburg…again. The fields were awash in casualties, and both sides spent some combat cards, but it only served to exhaust both of them. The Ottomans later went on to do piracy, and the Hapsburgs found themselves out of cards very early on. However, there was a large stack at Antwerp now (six units and a leader), and I felt that a field battle and siege might not get me what I wanted.

The French never declared war on the Hapsburgs, opting to go for Genoa instead with “Machieavelli.” This was a bummer for me, but what can you do? Martin Luther opted to grab a few electorates and make Germany almost entirely Protestant. While this was frustrating for me, I was able to play “Dissolution of the Monasteries” and got two cards and three free Reformation attempts. (And the Protestant not helping the English too much is understandable…that can be like dealing with the Devil.)

As the turn wore on, I used my high CP cards to good effect. I built some more units in Calais and deployed my fleet, eventually invading Spain. Since the Hapsburgs were out of cards, I was able to snatch one key. I then sent out an explorer and tried to publish my own treatises, but they failed!  At the end of the action phase, the Papacy was at 20 VP due to a great play of “Michelangelo.” The Hapsburgs were at 19 with the Ottomans, the French, and me, and the Protestants trailed at 18–definitely the closest game I’ve played in. During the New World phase, the French pulled their best explorer and found the Amazon (21 VP). They then conquered a tribe (22 VP). I found the St. Lawrence (20 VP), but it was not enough. Joe, a first time player, won the “biggest hat in Europe” award as the French.

Final scores: Ottomans 19, Hapsburgs 19, English 20, French 22, Papacy 20, Protestants 18. And it all came down to a few die rolls. Very satisfying.

So what was the margin of victory for me? What could I have done better to win the game? I had a huge CP hand that second turn. It was truly ridiculous. Had I not been so torn between the military or Reformation paths, I could have chosen one and gone for broke. I had the CP to possibly take Antwerp and invade Spain (which was nearly empty) for 23 VP. Or, I could have played some cards in a different order, taken the Spanish key, sent an explorer, and gotten two treatises published, which may have put me over the limit. (As it was, I only published one treatise and flubbed both rolls.) Last, I could have ignored the military after the Calais defeat and published treatises like crazy, which might have put me over.

One last thing: I have played and won as the English before, but only in games where I was playing both them and the Protestants at the same time. The English are really hemmed in by the Scottish, the French, the Hapsburgs, and the need to get the Reformation going. It feels like one doesn’t have many options when playing them, which is a pain.

However, this was, hands down, the most fun and smooth game of Here I Stand we’ve played. A hearty well done to all players, and congratulations to Joe/Francois!

Cross posted to Board Game Geek.